The Maserati 3200 GT is a magnificent machine. It’s sleek, well designed and made crafted in the hands of the well-respected Italian designer Giorgetto Giugiario from the Italdesign company. This stunning car can be looked at as the savior of Maserati in the 90s as it revived the brand. Especially with its sleek Italian design and futuristic styled Maserati boomerang lights, that people still talk about in 2021 as being one of the most gorgeous pieces of design to be implemented on a car. It was a welcomed refresh as it concluded the successful Maserati Biturbo era.
The Ferrari CEO of the time, Stuart Robinson had announced that this will reignite the Maserati brand in North America after a 12 year absence from the US market. Stating that it will make its debut at the Detroit Auto Show in 2001 be in dealers across the country for sale by 2002. Although the Maserati 3200 GT USA revitalization plan for the brand was only half true, as the 3200 GT only provided the base of what formed the production version of the Maserati 4200 (Coupe) which was for sale in North America from 2002.
The Maserati 3200 GT also signified the era that Ferrari took ownership of Maserati, as it was one of the first cars that Maserati produced once they changed hands by acquiring 51% of the shares that were owned by De Tomaso in 1997 and then obtaining full ownership of the company after purchasing the remaining shares from the Fiat group.
The Maserati 3000 GT is a fast, luxurious and stylish grand tourer from the 90s. There were only 4,975 Maserati 3200 GT’s produced which makes it a fairly rare car. An even more exclusive version was the Maserati 3200 GT Assetto Corsa with a mere 259 units produced. The 3200 GT was quite a special and exciting car for the Maserati. Let’s dive right into this Maserati 3200 GT review and go through all the reasons why it’s pure pleasure.
The Pre-Ferrari Twin Turbo Engine
The Maserati 3200 GT engine is nothing to laugh about, especially with the 370 horsepower and 362 lb-ft of torque this twin turbo, double overhead camshaft V8 engine pumps out. The peak horsepower is achieved at 6,250rpm which will get you up to a top speed of 180mph! If performance excites you then this turbocharged engine is your new best friend.
The car, although the Maserati 3200 GT horsepower is delivered via a twin turbo charged configuration, the engineers have developed a surprisingly delightful yet raspy sound. Letting you fully enjoy the V8 sound that has become the trademark of Maserati. As expected with turbo cars, the Maserati 3200GT exhaust note is not as loud and in your face as the naturally aspirated engines Maserati produces. It is more understated, even when you open it up with an aftermarket exhaust option.
Specs at a quick glance:
- Engine Type: V8
- Displacement: 3,217cc
- Horsepower: 370hp at 6,250rpm
- Torque: 362 lb-ft (491 NM) at 4500rpm
- 0-60 mph: 5.1 seconds
- Top Speed: 180mph
- Dimensions: 178 in. Length / 72 in. Width / 51 in. Height (L 4.51m/W 1.82m/H 1.30m)
- Curb Weight: 3505lbs. / 1590kg
The Three Different Versions
This Modena masterpiece came in three different versions, with a key version being introduced as the 2000 Maserati 3200 GT Automatica or otherwise known as the Maserati 3200 GTA. As the name implies in Italian this is the auto version of the 3200. There was also the Maserati 3200 GT Assetto Corsa which was a special version of the base car that came with some unique options that was seen as the pinnacle of the 3200 GT.
Maserati 3200 GT
This is the base version of the that was first introduced to the world in 1998, unfortunately this car and all other version of the Maserati 3200 GT were never imported into America. The 3200 GT had ended its production in 2002 and subsequently ended all involvement from the De Tomaso era of ownership. This was the last car that De Tomaso had an input on. Although, the 3200 GT was later evolved into the Maserati Coupe.
The Maserati 3200 GT is equipped with a six-speed manual ZF gearbox. This would be my preferred drivetrain layout due to the car being in my complete control. The manual although, a bit heavy on the clutch lever is a rewarding drive. It gives you the feeling of total control, as the driver to car connection is much more intimate than an automatic developed back in 1998.
Maserati 3200 Spyder
This is an important fact to clarify, as we’re aware that this can cause some confusion if you’re trying to search for a Maserati 3200 Spyder online. There’s no such thing as a Maserati 3200 Spyder. The 3200 GT never came with a convertible option.
The Maserati Spyder is actually the successor to the 3200 GT. It was initially introduced in 2001 and was later followed by a Coupe version with essentially the same body styling at the Maserati 3200 GT. The key difference on the exterior is the rear lights were no longer the beautifully sculpted boomerang lights as Maserati needed to meet the American homologation requirements in order to import the car to the US.
Also under the hood, Maserati got rid of the twin turbo’s and replaced the engine with a Naturally Aspirated V8 which shares a few components with the Ferrari F430. The shared component is mainly just the engine block itself, whilst other key parts such as the crankshaft, heads, exhaust ports and so on are completely different, ultimately deeming this engine not so similar to the Ferrari F430 engine.
Maserati 3200 GT Automatica
Shortly after the car was initially introduced, the Maserati 3200 GTA was created. This is the automatic variant of the Maserati. It featured a four speed gearbox. The engine specs remained the same with 370hp with the only difference to the manual being that the auto added approximately 66lb (30kg) to the overall weight of the chassis. The Maserati 3200 GTA is known for being slightly easier to drive around town than the manual, as all auto cars are.
You’ll only really notice the difference as you start to go beyond the 100mph mark, as the fewer gears offered in the 4 speed automatic can’t deliver speed the same way the 6 speed manual would. There’s also a matter of not being able to downshift gears yourself as this is entirely up to the gearbox’s ECU which can be uninspiring at the best of times. If you truly want to enjoy the driving experience, I’d highly recommend the manual.
Maserati 3200 GT Assetto Corsa
In the 2001 Geneva Motor show, Maserati unveiled their super sports version of the 3200 GT. Quite a special car it ended up being as well. They only produced a total of 259 units with 163 in manual and the other 96 in automatic. Where it gets even more interesting is the number of Assetto Corsa’s produced per color. There were a total of 73 Grigio Touring (silver/grey touring), 63 Nero Carbonio (Carbon Black) and 60 Rosso Mondiale (worldly red).
If you added up those numbers, they only make up 196 of the allocated 259 cars. This leaves 63 unique colors and makes the 3200 GT Assetto Corsa even more rare if it was painted in one of these 63. To mention a few, there was only one car delivered in Verde Mexico (Dark Green) and one in my personal favorite color, Blue Luci Di Mezzanotte (Midnight Blue).
Other than getting excited about the different colors the Assetto Corsa was offered in, in typical Maserati fashion, the elements that made this car special were mostly cosmetic and handling oriented. The main differences to the standard car being, the suspension was 15mm lower with firmer springs and an adjustable larger anti roll bar. There were also some new 18 inch alloy wheels finished in a dark grey color which were wrapped around an upgraded set of brake pads. There was some Assetto Corsa signage throughout the car and some carbon bits inside.
Maserati 3200 Road Test
Where this car comes to life is quite obviously when you’re taking it through some twisty roads. It’s quick yet composed on the road but where it excels is in that sports car feel when you’re going through some technical corners and a stretch of challenging roads. But it’s a car you have to treat with respect.
The bite you need to be aware of in this car is mostly due to its unpredictability and unique handling characteristics. Don’t get me wrong, it’s what makes the car exciting and interesting to drive but at the same time if you get it wrong it can definitely punish you. The two main things you need to be aware of is it’s on/off throttle response, where the sensitivity of the throttle can catch you off guard. It’s a well-known trait of the 3200 and can get you into trouble.
The main issue with this responsiveness from the car is that the boost is so rapid and non-linear that when it comes on, it hits you like a train. You suddenly get a rush provided by all 370hp of that V8 twin turbo engine. The scenario’s this could catch you out in is when accelerating to an area that might require you to slow down, that you might misjudge or more commonly, when there’s a corner. If the boost spikes mid corner, you could easily send that rear end flying and the car into an undesirable location.
Although the steering is precise and suspension is claimed to be very comfortable and forgiving by many reviewers of the 3200, it’s simply not up to par with what it needs to be for a car of this level. The handling characteristics of the car, even in the more refined Assetto Corsa leave the car feeling slightly unbalanced.
Regardless of my two minor complaints, these risks can be mitigated with a few simple modifications and refined driving input. Once you become more familiar with any car, you will naturally be able to maneuver it more accurately as you’ll better understand how the car reacts in certain scenarios.
The major plus this car has, is the refined comfort level of the luxury interior designed in this era, and the gloriously god like turbo V8 sound. This is especially apparent in a car that has an aftermarket exhaust (as is with all Maserati’s). Not to sound too cliché, but the feeling the power and sound gives you more than makes up for the drawbacks previously mentioned.
The Main Maserati 3200 GT Problems
All heroes have their kryptonite and the Maserati 3200 GT is no exception. Whilst Maserati’s are fantastic cars, they are known to have a few hiccups on occasion. Whilst there are a few Maserati 3200 GT problems owners can encounter, don’t let it deter you away from purchasing this car, just ensure you have either the skills to repair or the sufficient budget to maintain the car. I highly suggest you factor that in when you purchase any car, especially a Maserati.
It wouldn’t be uncommon for parts alone to cost you thousands. The best weapon against this, is to be aware of what you’re up for with a 3200 GT as it’s best to prepare for the worst. Here is a list of the main Maserati 3200 GT problems mechanics have informed me that can occur.
Cam Belt Replacement
The cam belt is a part on the car that has an interval of replacement. The main point to look at is the condition of the cam belt, which has a service replacement interval of 68,000 miles or five years. A new cam belt costs around $1,500 and must be taken into consideration when you buy a car approaching its next replacement interval. Cautious owners replace these every 30,000 miles to avoid any future complications.
Failure of the Throttle body
This can be quite a costly fix and isn’t as uncommon as one would hope. Whenever you check the engine, listen for any signs of difficult starting, stalling or difficulties with idling. This is an obvious sign that the throttle body needs to be replaced, which will cost approximately $4,000. Some people believe that the throttle body fails because of under-bonnet temperatures. But it is not true. The throttle body is just prone to failure as it was developed with a few design flaws.
Crankshaft End Float
One major issue to be aware of is the crankshaft end float. When the end float exceeds its tolerance, wear can result quickly. An extreme case of this, can lead to excessive wear, resulting in the end float exceeding the thickness of the bearing. This causes the retaining tab to come off from its retaining slot, then leading to the demise of the surrounding components as the bearing and crank will now rotate together.
The effect this will have on the engine is a loss of oil pressure and a developing noise coming from the engine. The eventual side effect of this is the need to replace the entire engine block and crankshaft. Not such a desirable situation to be in.
This mainly occurs on manual cars but it’s not unheard of on automatics, although is rarer than the manual gearbox.
Worn Out Bushings and Control Arms
This is a big one, as worn out bushings and control arms will have a big effect on the way your car handles. At high speed you’ll potentially notice stability issues in the steering. The worst part of this is that when the bushings wear out, you can’t just replace the bushing, you’ll need to replace the whole control arm. Each control arm is a few thousand dollars and there’s two per wheel. The cost escalates pretty quickly with this issue.
The way to test for this issue would be to drive the car and see if there are any irregularities in the steering. Though this is not a fool proof way to diagnose if there’s a problem. A Maserati specialist told me, you’ll need to lift the car a couple inches off the ground, get a bar leveraged under the tire and slightly lift the bar up to move the suspension (not excessively), if you hear a clicking sound, it means the bushing has worn and control arms will need to be replaced. Unfortunately you can’t just replace the bushings, you’ll need the whole control arm.
When first starting the car, it’s normal to see the engine light on the dash for a few seconds. If the light isn’t automatically going out then there could be an issue with the lambda sensor. They can get quite dirty from exhaust fumes as they are oxygen sensors that sit within the exhaust. The sensors themselves aren’t overly expensive but the labor could add a bit to the cost of the overall job as they’re in a tricky spot.
Leaking Gearbox and Clutch Wear
The 3200 GTA, automatic gearbox tends to leak, but is usually a minor issue due to a loose nut on the gearbox.
In relation to the clutch wear, it’s a very expensive clutch replacement for manual cars when it wears out. The typical life of the clutch is usually around 20,000 – 25,000 miles (30,000 – 40,000km). The clutch itself isn’t too expensive but can sometimes involve replacement of other key components such as the master cylinder which can start to get expensive.
Fairly easy to diagnose this issue, if you’re looking at the radiator and notice some coolant leaking it could be due to a worn out radiator hose. It’s also not uncommon for it to just be a loose hose that needs to be adjusted, but make sure you check thoroughly to ensure there’s no cracking on the hose itself. The cause of these issues can also be attributed to a blockage within the radiator, best solved by changing the coolant and flushing the radiator after replacing any worn out hoses/adjusting the fitment.
Starter Motor Wear
To identify this issue, you’ll notice when the car has been sufficiently warmed up and you try to start it again, the car will take more time than usual to start or sound like it is struggling to kick over and start. This could very well be the 3200GT starter motor issue. The starter motor itself may wear out over time due to leaks that have affected it or heat sink issues. To fix this you’ll simply need to replace the starter motor, which is an inexpensive part for the Maserati 3200 GT.
If you’re noticing anything else irregular once that car has successfully started, it would most likely be due to other issues. One common issue that people attribute to a starter motor but is actually something else, is an uneven idle. If the car is idling unevenly, it’s suggesting there’s a potential issue with either the pedal sensor, throttle body or plenum, which are all known to fail from time to time.
Maintaining a Maserati Doesn’t Come Cheap
The Maserati 3200 GT maintenance costs may frighten you a little. Some owners say they’ve been sucked in by such a great deal to initially purchase the car then paid two to three times its value in maintenance. It’s not so much your regular servicing costs that will send you to the cleaners.
That is quite reasonable and just like any other performance car, anywhere between $500 to $1,000 will get you by for the year. It’s when you encounter any of the above issues or any mechanical/electrical component failing that will start costing you. Don’t be fooled by people saying it’s a very reliable car and things hardly go wrong, this is just standard dealership speak or owners that are in denial.
A very close friend of mine hardly ever drives his 3200 GT Assetto Corsa, and it’s set him back ridiculous amounts of money, to the point where selling it is just pointless. 3200’s have the potential to be very problematic and as soon as you need to order parts from the factory the price quickly escalates. The one saving grace is that there’s so many fantastic forums and Maserati enthusiasts that will help and guide you to sourcing second-hand parts. If you’re still keen on owning one and need to keep the Maserati 3200 GT maintenance costs down, this is one way you can do it.
Maserati 3200 vs 4200
The great debate, whether the 4200 or the 3200 is a better car. But the real question in the Maserati 3200 vs 4200 debate is, which is the best car for you. To straight out answer this question for me, due to the overall improvements around the car in terms of reliability and the naturally aspirated V8 in the 4200, that’s the car for me.
When Ferrari acquired Maserati and ended the 3200 GT’s production, they had a point to prove, and it was to improve on everything the previous owners did. It was especially important to get it right, as this was one of the first cars they were using to reintroduce the Maserati brand to North America, first impressions mattered. The Maserati 4200 was Ferrari’s first proper car under the Maserati umbrella, and they went all in to prove their point of being a better owner. Electronics were more refined to increase reliability as well as the mechanical workings of the car.
But the thing enthusiasts will always hit you with as a counter argument is, it’s not about being the most refined or best, it’s about the history and being the enthusiast’s choice. It seems people prefer the Maserati 3200 GT for its prestige for introducing the iconic grand tourer shape that then evolved into the Maserati Coupe / 4200 and the Gransport. Let’s also not forget about those iconic Maserati Boomerang lights on the 3200 GT, that so many people lust for and hope to see re-emerge somewhere in Maserati’s new line-up one day.
Maserati 3200 GT Buyers Guide
We cannot stress to you enough, to seek professional guidance when purchasing any car. This especially applies to Maserati’s and then even more for a Maserati 3200GT. Be sure to get all the information you need before you make a purchase.
This article lists out a fairly comprehensive guide of what you need to look out for. Most mechanics will know how to spots these issues. It will be very beneficial if you seek out a Maserati specialist to do a pre-purchase inspection as they won’t blindly be looking for the issues based off what has been listed in the article, but they will have first-hand experience of what the telltale signs are of these issues. Pinpoint accuracy is what is needed here. At the end of day, this process will let you know if you’re paying the right price for the car and if you need to expect a huge bill for maintenance early on during ownership.
Two things I’ve not mentioned in great detail or at all above, that is important to mention here. The rear of the car, under the brake lights/around the boot is prone to rusting. This is an issue that plagues all models that utilize this chassis. It’s also not uncommon for some cars to develop rust underneath on the actual chassis as well.
The clutch can also be a pretty expensive exercise to replace, so, if possible, get a reading on the clutch life. The manual clutch can potentially cost a few thousand to replace as other components may also be worn, quickly escalating the price upwards of $5,000.
Importing a Maserati 3200 to America
Since the Maserati 3200 GT was never produced for the North American market, if you fall in love with it after reading this article, your only real option to ownership is to import one into the country.
It’s considered a non-homologated car for the USA market and will require the car to be at least 25 years old for it to qualify for a Classic vehicle import without having to pass harsh testing to ensure it meets regulations. These regulations are known as the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards or FMVSS. Any car under the age of 25 years must also comply with the following pieces of legislation:
- Motor Vehicle Information and Cost Savings Act (1972)
- Motor Vehicle Safety Act (1966)
- Importing Vehicle Safety Compliance Act (1988)
- Clean Air Act (1990)
The Easiest Method to Import a Maserati 3200 GT
The easiest way would be if the 3200 GT fell into the Show or Display category, where a car can be imported if it is deemed historically or technologically significant. Unfortunately, even though we believe it’s significant in the history of Maserati and car world, it doesn’t pass the criteria for this category.
To save all a lot of hassle, since the car is less than 25 years old, it would be best to get in touch with a registered importer to find out the following:
- Does the car comply with the EPA/DOT requirements and if any modifications are required for it to conform to the standards
- What are the correct forms to file before importing (This varies from country to country that you’re importing from), you can simply pay the importer to complete these for you
- What the costs are regarding freight, insurance, port delivery and storage fees, mandatory cleaning, registration and other charges
- What are the key documents required to register the car in the USA, these usually are:
- Original bill of landing
- Bill of sale
- EPA Form 3520-1
- DOT Form HS-7
Since the car was never originally sold in the USA you have to go through the above steps to get the car into the country. This can only be done through a registered importer. Don’t forget that there’s a 2.5% import duty fee that is likely to be applied to the Maserati 3200 GT.
There’s a lot of overhead that needs to be sorted out when importing any car. In a way it’s probably an advantage that your only option is to use a Registered Importer as they will work through all of this behind the scenes. The key here is that they will make sure that the 3200 can be imported and registered for personal use by working with government departments such as US Customs, NHTSA, DOT, EPA and the DMV.
You can check out this comprehensive guide on the USA Customs Clearance site to find out all the details you need to know.
Iconic, refined, luxury, performance oriented and stylish Italian sports car of the late 90s and early 2000s. The Maserati 3200 GT is certainly a unique car with an unforgettable heritage. It surely has its quirks and a bit of attitude if you don’t treat it with respect on the roads.
But in that way, it gives the car a persona, as much like Italian people, the car is full of character and gives life to an otherwise bland and boring machine when developed by other unenthusiastic manufacturers. You can almost taste the passion that was poured into this machine. Sure, the car has its share of problems but it gives that life like element to a car and that’s something we as humans can relate to, nobody is perfect but if you take care of it in the right way it will reward you greatly.
The Maserati 3200 GT is the perfect car for a Maserati enthusiast to own, it ticks all of the boxes of what makes a Maserati special. Don’t let the negative points deter you from enjoying this car, but take it as a guide to what you might expect and with the right mindset, you’ll never be disappointed as it’s all part of the experience.